Morris saves another penalty but Reds beaten by second-half goals
Glenn Morris saved a penalty for the second successive game but it was Portsmouth who picked up three points at the Checkatrade Stadium.
The biggest home crowd since May 2015 were celebrating again when Morris, who had denied Doncaster’s John Marquis on Saturday, kept out Eoin Doyle’s spot-kick early in the second half.
But Christian Burgess headed Portsmouth in front from the resultant corner and Kyle Bennett made the points save with 20 minutes to go.
Dermot Drummy made one change to the side that held leaders Doncaster on Saturday with Rhys Murphy coming in for Billy Clifford in a 4-4-2 formation.
Reds were happy to let Portsmouth have a lot of the ball in the early stages but despite dominating possession the visitors created little until the 16th minute when former Crawley loanee Bennett drifted in from the left but fired a low shot well wide of the left-hand post.
There was more of a threat six minutes later. Patient build-up ended with Eoin Doyle teeing up Danny Rose whose hit from the edge of the box was straight at Morris.
The keeper made another comfy save from Rose’s attempted curler in the 32nd minute but by then Reds had started to grow into the game.
Dean Cox looked a threat when he got the ball and had a sight of goal in a packed penalty area before Portsmouth cleared.
The best chance thus far came on 33 minutes. Doyle was put through as Reds appealed for offside but Morris stood tall to block his shot with his chest.
The hosts put together their best move of the game in the 41st minute when a three-man sequence ended with Murphy hitting a shot with the outside of his right foot which drifted wide of David Forde’s goal.
Bennett and Naismith tested Morris before the break which ended on a positive note for Reds. Cox’s cross was turned away for a corner which Enzio Boldewijn met with a long-range header that was held at full stretch by Forde.
The hosts started the second half strongly and Collins had a great chance in the 49th minute when he wriggled clear of Burgess but fired wide from a tight angle.
But it was Pompey who broke the deadlock in the 54th minute after a dramatic few moments which started when Boldewijn brought down Enda Stevens in the box and referee Johnson pointed to the spot. Morris saved Doyle’s low spot kick as he dived to his left but from the resultant corner Reds fatally switched off from Kal Naismith’s right-wing delivery and Burgess headed home from close range.
Josh Payne fired over in the 64th minute after a decent move down the left by Reds but Doyle nearly made amends for his spot-kick miss when Naismith teed him up for a volley which hit Joe McNerney before it was cleared.
But Pompey doubled their lead in the 71st minute. Bennett was allowed the space to drive into the box and his powerful drive deflected off Mark Connolly and sped past a helpless Morris.
Crawley brought on Clifford and Conor Henderson to try and rescue something and Clifford immediately forced Forde into a save with his feet.
The midfielder’s 86th-minute corner nearly led to a goal when Collins’ glancing header flashed just past the upright and McNerney had a header cleared off the line in stoppage time.
But it was the visitors who were celebrating at the end as they moved into the automatic promotion places.
Reds: Morris; Young, Connolly, McNerney, Lelan; Boldewijn (sub: Bawling 71), Smith, Payne (sub: Henderson 71), Cox (Clifford 71); Murphy; Collins.
Unused subs: Mersin, Blackman, Djalo.
Booked: Young (foul)
Attendance: 5350 (2300 Portsmouth)